1. Franchitti closes in on fourth straight IndyCar title
2. Who’s racing at Mosport next July 22nd? (Please see post below.)
3. Peugeot wins Petit Le Mans, Kurt Busch in NASCAR (Please see two posts below.)
1. CARPENTER WINS KENTUCKY INDY RACE; FEW SEE IT
How’s this for irony?
Most of the drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series have to either bring their own sponsors or write a cheque on their family’s bank account to "buy a ride" in order to race.
It is one of the weird things about most top-level car racing these days that the drivers have to pay the owners instead of the other way around.
Now, in 2012, the IndyCar Series itself is going to have to bring its own sponsor or else the Kentucky Speedway won’t put on a race.
Speedway owner Bruton Smith told IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard at the weekend that if IndyCar wants to race at his place next year, the series will either have to find a title sponsor or pick up the tab itself.
Why? Because nobody is interested and Mr. Smith is not going to waste his time trying to find somebody.
As a result, if I read another stupid statement like "what IndyCar needs is more ovals" from the 150 or 200 fans that the IZOD-sponsored series has left (and dominate the chat rooms and mailbags of Indy-centric motorsport journalists), I think I’ll scream.
Except for Indianapolis and Iowa (where the stands don’t hold that many people, meaning it’s not that hard to fill them), attendance at Indy-style oval races is a disgrace.
Milwaukee was embarrassing earlier this year and New Hampshire was a joke more recently and neither are expected to be on the 2012 schedule. Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway, which featured both superb race-driving as well as assinine pit-lane driving, was attended by so few people that they looked lost in the 100,000-seat arena.
This was the place in July where so many people tried to get in for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race that the traffic jams prevented many of them from even getting to their seats.
By comparison, so few showed up for Sunday’s IZOD race that organizers should have introduced them to the 29 drivers, instead of the other way around. It would have made for an interesting pre-race ceremony instead of watching the drivers waving to 80,000-plus empty seats (and the idea that there might have been 20,000 people there is being very generous).
Ed Carpenter, a former sprint car driver who’s Tony George’s stepson, won the race Sunday for owner Sarah Fisher and it’s indicative of the state of that series that despite this success, she likely won’t be able to field a team in 2012.
Fisher, who gave birth to her first child several weeks ago, started her team in 2008 and has only been able to run a limited schedule since. Carpenter’s win Sunday was his first and her team’s first but her sponsor, a U.S. variety-discount store chain called Dollar General, won’t be back in 2012.
Although it was a great day for Carpenter and Fisher, it was a terrible day for Australian Will Power who won the pole and was running away with the race until he was T-boned in pit lane by Ana Beatriz, who was released from her pit stop by someone who should probably be classified as being legally blind.
It wasn’t the only "oops, didn’t see you there" incident at Kentucky Sunday (Simona Di Silvestro lost control of her car while going about 50 miles an hour and hit a crew member on another team) but it was the most significant because it might have cost him the championship.
Power’s car was gashed along the side by Beatriz’s and was no longer competitive. Despite several attempts to fix it during pit stops, the car was sufficiently wounded that Power could do no better than 19th.
Dario Franchitti, who finished second to Carpenter (Scott Dixon was third), now leads going into the final race at Las Vegas and looks likely to win his fourth consecutive championship.
The big story of the day for Canadians was James Hinchcliffe’s fourth-place finish. As well as a great finish for the rookie from Oakville, it put him ahead of American J.R. Hildebrand for the top rookie award with one race to go, at Las Vegas in two weeks.
"Certainly it’s nice to go into the last race of the year a little bit up (in points) but at the end of the day there is still a lot that can happen," Hinchcliffe said.
"As you can see, J.R. was ahead of us on track at one point during the day and so many things can happen to throw you off. It just proves how tough these races are; its really about being there at the end.
"(But) we’ll take it! Obviously I would rather be ahead than behind but there is still another 300 mile race to get through.
Dan Wheldon, driving in place of Canadian Alex Tagliani and "warming up" for his shot at winning $5 million at Las Vegas in two weeks, finished 14th.
Danica Patrick once again was the top finisher among the three women racing, ending up tenth. This finish moved her into the top ten in the points standings.